Tag Archives: IRS


The man—and I use that word only in its most general sense—pictured above has proven to be startlingly incompetent throughout his life. Yet he constantly brags about his superiority in all manner of things. Sad.

Actor Stephen Fry (yes, I, too, have barely heard of him) was voted the most intelligent person on TV in the U.K according to this article in HuffPo wherein he provides an explanation of why the man pictured above has so many supporters who believe everything he says, even when it is obviously pure twaddle and outright lies.


Fry believes a psychological lesson helps explain this effect.


For example, researchers found students who were least proficient often overestimated their own abilities.

“The skills they lacked were the same skills required to recognize their incompetence,” Fry said. “The incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge.”

That’s now known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

The Dunning-Kruger effect was developed by psychologists at Cornell. It considers that incompetent people

fail to recognize their own lack of skill

fail to recognize the extent of their inadequacy

fail to accurately gauge skill in others

recognize and acknowledge their own lack of skill only after they are exposed to training for that skill


Both Fry and Wikipedia offer oversimplifications of Dunning-Kruger, but the entire Dunning-Kruger paper can be found here:


We focus on the metacognitive skills of the incompetent to explain, in part, the fact that people seem to be so imperfect in appraising themselves and their abilities.1 Perhaps the best illustration of this tendency is the “above-average effect,” or the tendency of the average person to believe he or she is above average…

That, the man pictured does to the max. Indeed, the Washington Post compiled a litany of such claims last October. Among them

“I understand the tax laws better than almost anyone, which is why I’m the one who can truly fix them,”

“I think nobody knows the system better than I do.” (on government)

“Nobody knows more about trade than me.”

“There’s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.”

“So a general gets on, sent obviously by Obama, and he said, ‘Mr. Drumpf doesn’t understand. He knows nothing about defense.’ I know more about offense and defense than they will ever understand, believe me. Believe me. Than they will ever understand. Than they will ever understand.”

“Because nobody knows the system better than me. I know the H1B. I know the H2B. Nobody knows it better than me.”

And, of course, there is his constant bragging about his negotiating skills.

He understands the tax laws but insists he can’t release his tax returns because he is under IRS audit. The IRS tells him he can, though whether he is under audit is a private matter.

He “knows the system” but yet many appointed positions remain unfilled that are vital to the workings even he wishes to occur.

As to the military and the generals, he also promised to have a plan to defeat ISIS “within 30 days” Still not done.


And when the Seals mission in Yemen went awry did he take responsibility because he knows the military? Hell no.

On Visas he knows more than anybody? Several federal judges have told him he does not. And that is compounded by his utter lack of understanding of how the federal courts work—or else it reveals that he doesn’t care that federal courts exist, he wants to be a dictator.

On trade he’s an expert? He’s gone from totalling condemning NAFTA to a willingness to renegotiate with Canada and Mexico on some of its terms. All the while he ignores mountains of evidence that NAFTA is not a disaster, but at worst only a lukewarm success for the United States

And negotiating skills? Gee, where were those demonstrated when Republicans were forced to give up ACA repeal and all the program cuts he wanted in order to keep the government financed for the remainder of this fiscal year? He got NOTHING he wanted.

This piece provides a more recent perspective on Dunning-Kruger.


Unfortunately, in those places ruled by the smug and complacent, a classic paper has become a weapon. The findings of Dunning and Kruger are being reduced to “Stupid people are so stupid that they don’t know they are stupid.” Rather bluntly, Dunning himself said, “The presence of the Dunning-Kruger effect, as it’s been come to be called, is that one should pause to worry about one’s own certainty, not the certainty of others.” And that humorously suggests the Dunning-Kruger effect is now a candidate to become a second Godwin’s law.

Like Dunning, I do not take such a dim view of humanity. In fact, Dunning-Kruger and follow-up papers give us cause for hope. They show that people are not usually irredeemably stupid. You can teach people to accurately self-evaluate—though, in their specific examples, this also involved teaching them the very skill they were trying to evaluate.

(Godwin’s law, incidentally, is the proposition that in any comment thread, if long enough, some comparison to Hitler will emerge.)

But remember the fourth point of D-K

recognize and acknowledge their own lack of skill only after they are exposed to training for that skill

While that may be true, that presupposes that the person demonstrates a desire to cure their lack of skill. In our present case, do not hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

What, ME worry? Damned right I worry.




Okay, I’ll narrow the field for you since there is so much nonsense afoot at any particular time.

We have learned that the IRS targeted right wing groups regarding their tax-exempt status or efforts to secure that status. I’ve already addressed this issue and I can safely maintain that I’m agin’ it! https://umoc193.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/no-country-for-old-tax-exempts/

We have also learned that the Department of Justice obtained at least two months of phone records of Associated Press (AP) journalists in an attempt to determine the source of leaks in conjunction with anti-terrorist activities.

There is no doubt these actions by our government are extremely troubling and the Obama Administration is deservedly taking heat.

Piggy-backing on top of the renewed Benghazi investigation Republicans in Congress are undoubtedly feeling their oats. Especially joyful at these revelations are those on the right who are constantly preaching of the evils of the federal government and warning of complete government suppression.

Infortuitously for Obama and his minions, it will be easy to exploit these missteps to make political hay that even, conceivably, could carry over into the 2016 Presidential campaign.

However much one is offended by these actions, and I am sorely offended, I really cannot say that they signal a seachange in government misdeeds that threaten our very Republic.

Senate Majority Leader Democrat Harry Reid offered his two cents that the IRS focus on Tea Party groups is no different than when the agency picked on Greenpeace and the All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California during the Cheney…er…Bush Administration without a peep of protest from Republicans. http://www.salon.com/2013/05/14/reid_republicans_hypocritical_for_benghazi_irs_outrage/

In the former instance Greenpeace was subject to an extensive IRS audit due to allegations its advocacy passed lines of permissibility for a tax-exempt. It seems that a supposed watchdog group, heavily financed by Exxon, instigated this audit. Exxon, of course, is the natural enemy of Greenpeace. http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0322-10.htm

The Church got into trouble when its former Rector, Rev. George F. Regas, gave a guest sermon chastising Bush for the Iraq war. http://articles.latimes.com/2005/nov/07/local/me-allsaints7

Neither did spying on journalists originate with the Obama DOJ.

But obtaining phone records of journalists is an extreme course of action that has serious ramifications. There are special rules in place in the United States that authorities are supposed to adhere to when obtaining journalists’ communication records, and they’re intended to protect press freedom and stop prosecutors from compromising journalists’ constitutionally protected newsgathering role. Federal regulations instruct investigators that they can obtain journalists’ phone records only as a last resort, and the decision to seek the records should receive the “express authorization of the Attorney General.” The authorization should be given on the basis that “effective law enforcement and the fair administration of justice” is deemed, in the specific circumstances, to outweigh “the public’s interest in the free dissemination of ideas and information.”

In recent years, however, the FBI has flagrantly disregarded these rules on multiple occasions. A scathing 2010 review by the DoJ’s inspector general criticized how the feds had spied on Washington Post and New York Times reporters in a leaks investigation carried out in 2004. The feds obtained 22 months of reporters’ phone records “without any legal process or Attorney General approval,” the inspector found, which illustrated “the absence of internal controls” and was judged to be “negligent in various respects.” The same report detailed two other cases of the FBI obtaining reporters’ phone records without following the proper procedures. One of these cases was described as “deficient and troubling” and the other a “clear abuse of authority” that violated the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, federal regulation, and DoJ policy.


Also in the past American journalists have allowed themselves to be used by the CIA for intelligence gathering, i.e. spying, mostly furing the Cold War. Carl Bernstein gave a lengthy review of this practice in this essay. http://www.carlbernstein.com/magazine_cia_and_media.php

So the great concept of Freedom of the Press has often been compromised in the past and, on occasion, it is the Press doing the dirty deeds.

Our level of disgust when we are informed of these abuses usually depends on whose ox is getting gored. That is, if the party in power is one you are antipathetic towards, your umbrage will reach record highs.

It often develops that the offenses are dreamed up at the lower levels of bureaucracy, whether out of a misgiuded sense of loyalty to the administration then in power or from an inner need to feel self-important by wielding power not actually granted to you.

But these offenses and abuses are most egregious when they are the product of the high political appointees to office who are most likely striving to consolidate and enhance their designated powers.

However outraged we are over the AP spying, we seem to be less so when faced with the erosion of 1st and 4th Amendment rights when it comes to fighting terrorism. In Salon, Natasha Leonard enumerates the steps taken, laws enacted, etc, that seem to have us going quickly down the slippery slope. Again, though not new with Obama or even George W. Bush, since 9/11 the government has sought and been granted greater access to our personal lives, all in the name of “anti-terrorism.” http://www.salon.com/2013/05/14/whats_so_special_about_journalists/

Reg Henry of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opines that these current scandals are simply more of Obama’s opponents crying wolf. http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/reg-henry/obamas-opponents-do-a-lot-of-crying-wolf-687665/

I take a more wait and see attitude before judging the impact of these matters. I’ve already clearly stated that the IRS actions merit full investigation.

I do have a suspicion that there will be no sustained effect on the Obama Presidency. I’ve had my own bones to pick with him but to date these latest “sins” don’t appear to be anywhere near as serious as what I’ve been railing about.

In the end, history will tell us which it is. We do not, however, need to wait thirty years or so in order for that history to be written. These scandals often have a way of working themselves out so that in a few years down the road we will need stark reminders to recall they ever occurred.


There is more and more light being shed on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents who targeted right-leaning political non-profit groups for heightened scrutiny during the 2012 election campaign. Although the IRS has apologized for this, questions remain as to who knew what when. That’s a variation on the Watergate meme of “what did Richard Nixon know and when did he know it?”

It does appear that this scrutiny dates back as far as at least mid-2011.

But on June 29, 2011, Lois G. Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations, learned at a meeting that groups were being targeted, according to the watchdog’s report. At the meeting, she was told that groups with “Tea Party,” `’Patriot” or “9/12 Project” in their names were being flagged for additional and often burdensome scrutiny, the report says.


IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman, a George W. Bush appointee, maintains that this problem is entirely a concoction of lower level IRS employees. That may prove to be the case but Shulman’s word should not be the last one.

Nor, right now, are there any credible allegations that anyone in the White House conceived this plan or had any knowledge of it. But the results of any investigation must assure us that this is true. For if someone in the White House is involved, it be will be damned difficult for President Obama not to be implicated.

Recall that misusing the IRS for political reasons was one of the impeachment counts lodged against Richard Nixon. Had he not resigned ample evidence existed that may have led to his conviction on that count.

Americans of all stripes have a natural distrust about the IRS. While many are worried their misdeeds will be detected, probably most of us honestly believe we are at least trying not to cheat but still get nervous stomach any time we have contact with the IRS other than to obtain our filing forms or receive our refund checks.

For the most part in our history any paranoia has been unfounded. But it is occasions such as this that can generate enormous hate against the agency that impedes its normal functions and creates an atmosphere in which any government entity is looked on with suspicion.

Tax exempts are a special category that does deserve scrutiny. However, the potential for misdirected scrutiny can be high for any organization that is both tax exempt and operates in a manner that brings controversy.

One generally is not going to find IRS shenanigans concerning your average food pantry, or cancer fighting fund-raising group or your church on the corner that concentrates on serving its congregation instead of involving itself in social and political causes.

Last year Stephen Colbert, on his eponymous Comedy Central TV show, played with creating a Superpac to demonstrate how IRS regulations pertinent to such an organization’s money trail could be exploited easily and legally so the public never learns what happens with the money.

It is perfectly understandable why the government encourages the formation of tax-exempt groups with charitable or socially beneficial purposes. But there is opportunity within these organizations for abuse, not merely from corrupt individuals running them, but due to their very nature.

It may be the time to revisit this issue to explore whether the purposes of these organizations should be narrowly defined in order to qualify them for tax-exempt status and then regulated suffciently to ensure these purposes are met. That way we may avoid the pitfalls of permitting groups that have their own survival as their goal more than any public good to take advantage of this status.

In addition there would then also be far less incentive to manipulate the IRS to annoy, harrass, or otherwise mistreat them.

Look. It is pretty obvious that I have no love for the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, or any other group that makes ludicrous assertations about Obama and liberals that have little or no basis in fact. But if these groups qualify for tax-exempt status under present law I vehemently object to this unwarranted IRS scrutiny solely on the basis of their ideas and beliefs.

It is plain wrong and probably illegal. So investigate fully and identify whomever was responsible for these actions, countenanced them in their positions of oversight, or had the power to instigate them by exceutive fiat de facto or by inferred derivative power. And I do mean whomever.

Then let the punishment fit the crime.



Reference to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman was proper and he was a Bush appointee. However he resigned in November and no new IRS Commissioner is in place. Thus the call by Marco Rubio for his resignation now won’t quite work.

Update at 1:20 a.m. 5-14-13